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Student’s Snow-Throwing Robot Invention Leads to iRobot Internship


Posted 01/30/2017
Posted by Rose Brodeur


Corporate headquarters in Bedford, Mass.

Corporate headquarters in Bedford, Mass.

Early design of robot chassis with drive train, salter, and snow thrower

Early design of robot chassis with drive train, salter, and snow thrower

Wouldn’t it be nice to stay inside during a snowstorm while a robot cleared your driveway and sidewalk? Theresa DeFreitas’17 thinks so. This mechanical engineering student in the University’s College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture, is developing a remote-controlled snow-throwing robot. Her preliminary design helped her land the internship of her dreams at iRobot in Bedford, Mass for this semester.

“I came up with the idea in part because we share a 300-foot driveway with my grandparents. I was trying to find a way to make it easier,” explains Theresa, a native of Brookfield, Conn. who joined her first robotics team in ninth grade. She was also motivated by statistics. “Every year over 11,000 adults and children are hospitalized from snow shoveling-related injuries,” she says.

Outlining her plans for the robot during an interview with iRobot helped her stand out among hundreds of applicants. “They were really interested in the concept. Most of the interview was based around my design,“ says Theresa. She was hired as the lead mechanical engineer intern and is now working on research and development of new products.

Theresa’s initial virtual prototype design features a rotating snow-throwing chute attached to the front of the robot. “The rear includes a reservoir and spreader for applying salt or sand while plowing. The most exciting feature is that it can be controlled remotely indoors by the operator while a visual system streams live video of the robot,” she says. A powerful drive system, similar to a tank, provides maximum traction.

The University’s Women’s Advancement Initiative recently awarded Theresa a Dorothy Goodwin Scholarship to continue her design and assembly under the guidance of her faculty mentor, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Akin Tatoglu. He notes that Theresa will be an “innovator in her field who will help advance robotic technology.”

Theresa plans to complete her robot as a senior capstone project in April 2017.

As for naming her robot, Theresa says she’s waiting for actual assembly, confident that its “personality will emerge and that will help me decide.” 

Corporate headquarters in Bedford, Mass.

Corporate headquarters in Bedford, Mass.

Early design of robot chassis with drive train, salter, and snow thrower

Early design of robot chassis with drive train, salter, and snow thrower